Despite an 11th hour search for a loan goalkeeper, Rainworth MW still managed to pull off that elusive first win of the NPL season with a 2-1 win at Brigg Town last night.
The day hadn’t started well for the Wrens when they learned that keeper Harry Andrews, on a month’s loan from Notts County, had sustained a broken leg in training the previous day at his parent club.
In his short time at the club Harry had endeared himself to the fans and after his man of the match performance last Saturday they had affectionately nicknamed him ‘Schmeichel’.
The new management team, however, reacted quickly and obtained the services of Liam Roberts, another impressive young keeper from Walsall.
Rainworth also had to make three additional changes in the line-up as a result of injury and unavailability, giving the management an opportunity to give other players in the squad a chance to impress.
It was a nervy start by both sides in a genuine six-pointer so early in the season, more so for Rainworth, who were sitting bottom of the league.
The first real piece of quality football in the eighth minute resulted in a Rainworth goal as a beautiful passing interchange between Brad McGowan and Craig Mitchell presented Mitchell with a clear run on goal. He finished with aplomb, dipping the ball over the advancing keeper into the net.
The game was being played at a frantic pace and Brigg came close in the 15th minute when, from a free kick, the ball just cleared the crossbar.
A couple of minutes later Rainworth almost doubled the lead as yet another McGowan run down the right saw the referee play advantage as he was impeded. His cross found Alex Ford and the keeper could only watch as his effort flashed past the post.
Brigg once again threatened the Rainworth goal from a free kick and it took an excellent one- handed save by debutant Roberts to prevent them drawing level.
In the 26th minute it was another McGowan cross that again caused Brigg problems and Rainworth were unlucky as Dean Freeman’s header beat the keeper but went the wrong side of the upright.
In the final minutes of a half, which for the most part Rainworth had the better of, they had two further opportunities to increase their lead.
A great ball from Grant Ryan nearly found Ford and only Jody Barford’s alertness saved the day, then weak Brigg defending presented Ryan with an opportunity, but his shot was blocked.
Brigg started the second half brightly and applied early pressure and in the 50th minute had a great opportunity to equalise but the header was straight at the keeper.
In the 51st minute Mitchell found his way into the referee’s book for a mistimed challenge, then Ryan almost extended the lead when his shot had the keeper at full stretch, only for it to land on top of the net. A minute later Ryan joined Mitchell in the book, this time for dissent.
Rainworth seemed to have weathered the Brigg storm and after a neat passing move Daniel Williams’ effort clipped the crossbar with the keeper well beaten.
Rainworth replaced Ryan with Stephen Owens and a couple of minutes later he appeared to get the final touch to a Williams cross for the second.
This was almost repeated in the 76th minute when another Williams run and cross just evaded the onrushing forwards.
Rainworth replaced Tristram Whitman with Chris Hewitt as tiredness began to set in, and Brigg must have thought it wasn’t their night when Daniel Kingsley’s goalbound shot was turned onto the post by Roberts.
This seemed to inspire Brigg as they applied constant pressure on the Rainworth goal, during which Matt Millns was booked for blocking an opponent.
They took the opportunity to make their final substitution replacing Williams with Matt Jones.
Brigg, however, wouldn’t be denied and well into injury time Kingsley was first to the ball and gratefully placed his effort past the keeper.
Rainworth were thankful for the final whistle in a hard-fought game that saw both sides have periods of domination.
The night got even better for Rainworth when other results meant they were no longer in the relegation places.
RAINWORTH: Roberts, McGowan, Baugh, Freeman, Millns, Mitchell, Williams (Jones), Rennalls, Ford, Ryan (Owens), Whitman (Hewitt). Subs not used: Gregory, Coupe.
REFEREE: Paul Cook.
WRENS’ MAN OF THE MATCH: Brad McGowan.